Shop Differently: Feeding the Orphans

This month, I’m searching out places and organizations that provide a different way to shop for Christmas. Many of us will have to trek to the big box stores to purchase certain items on our gift lists, but we also have options for some different gift-giving ventures. Today’s Shop Differently organization, Feeding the Orphans, has beautiful handmade bags, jewelry and throws. So, here are a few items to get you interested:

My choice of this organization has a back story:

About four months ago, I met three little girls through photographs and stories. These girls live in Ghana, West Africa, and they are beautiful, with smooth, dark brown skin and eyes that crinkle when they smile. In the photo they are wearing faded sundresses that show their bony shoulders, but they are also standing straight and proud. One girl’s photo really needs a caption that reads, “You might think I’m in a bad place, but wait and see what I will become.” Children have amazing resilience – especially children who have been forced to endure the heartbreak of abandonment or relinquishment. There is a happy ending to their story. One of the girls has a family in process to adopt her. The other two girls (sisters) have families who are interested in them and filling out paperwork. These girls will rise above their present place and become women of fortitude and character with the love and support of their adoptive families. But this story isn’t about the girls. It’s about their mothers.

The two sisters and the other little girl each lived with single mothers in rural Ghana, a country that has been ravaged by AIDS, poverty, and human trafficking. One of the  mothers, Beatrice, had no education and no job skills. She eeked out a living selling corn and vegetables grown on her half-acre farm. When the rains were below average, the corn harvest was not enough to feed her and her daughter. She couldn’t afford to pay for her child’s school uniforms, books, school lunches, and other school supplies (there is no free public education in Ghana). To supplement her income, Beatrice attempted to sell credited bread at the village market stall on a  part-time basis. She ran into debt as a result of higher than normal spoilage rate and customers who bought her bread on credit but never paid. She gave up this trade to concentrate on her farm work. Her daughter began to lose weight and appear sickly because Beatrice could not buy or produce enough food to provide her with adequate nutrition. Paying for her daughter’s education was out of the question, and so Beatrice had to make the wrenching decision to relinquish her daughter to an orphanage – a place where the child would be fed and educated. The two sisters’ mother, Mary, has a similar story, only instead of trying to sell bread she was doing the backbreaking job of hauling firewood from the forest to sell. She, too, was unable to feed and educate her children.

This is hard for me to wrap my mind around. In my world, there are always options. There is not a moment when I worry about watching my children go hungry or without education. But these women felt as if they had no options left, and as I hear their stories it seems that this is true. I can’t imagine signing the paper and saying goodbye to my children. But women in poverty do this every day. I hear these stories and I began to mentally walk backward through the events that led to the separation of a mother and her child. I always stop at the place where the mother felt hopeless, and then I imagine someone stepping in to offer options. And here is where this story gets hopeful. Many people – quite a few of them adoptive families – are responding to the plight of these mothers, not just in Ghana, but around the world.

Here is a tangible way you can make a difference in the lives of women like Beatrice and Mary. Feeding the Orphans was started by an adoptive family. In addition to feeding orphans, the organization recognizes the plight of the mothers. They offer fair trade merchandise and the money goes directly to Ghanaian women who are only able to keep their children through the success of their micro businesses. When you shop, you support a mother’s business venture. Win/win! I discovered this sight and immediately thought of Beatrice, Mary, and their daughters. There are millions like them. Can you help them all? No. But you can help make a difference for one family. And one is an important number. So although I am trying to tame my own consumer mentality, I have no hesitation saying, “Go to the Feeding the Orphans store and shop!” Need a few more incentives?

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